While preparing for my semester abroad in the Fall of 2006, I learned that I had a one-week break in September. Having already backpacked the majority of Western Europe, my first thought was “CROATIA!!” A newly independent nation untraveled and, better yet, unheard of by most Americans. Cheap and off the beaten path? Just my style.
My initial research started as it always does – a search on Google Images to get an idea of some of the natural wonders of the region. My search for “Croatia National Park” led me to this photo:
I took an overnight ferry from Italy to Croatia and spent that mid-September week exploring Split and Dubrovnik, hoping to take a day trip to see Plitvice Lakes National Parks. I should have looked better at my maps. With the limited time I had and the infrequent bus schedule during “low season,” I couldn’t get there. Disappointment.
Croatia Round Two – I had 3 days in Croatia at the end of August, 2011 and I put Plitvice Lakes at the top of my To Do list thinking that this time around the bus schedules would be to my advantage. But the downside of travelling in peak season is that you’re subject to peak season pricing. Croatia had been discovered and prices had skyrocketed in the booming tourist economy. To see that National Park I would have spent 5+ hours in the bus each way, for no less than 100 euro, no thank you. I opted instead to take a day trip to Mostar in Bosnia, an experience that moved me more than I expected. Still no waterfalls.
Croatia Round Three – I found myself approaching August, 2012 with a gaping hole in my work schedule. Most Italians take their 1-3 week vacation in August and head for the beaches; those who stay in Rome aren’t too interested in English lessons. I took the opportunity to head to the Balkans for 5 weeks, making Plitvice Lakes National Park my absolute #1 priority. It wasn’t easy to organize, but I’m happy to say that after 6 years, I finally made it to those waterfalls!!! And they lived up to their hype, see for yourself (and imagine their beauty & power in April when the water’s high):